September 16, 2005

NCAA Needs to Look in the Mirror

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Beer drinking to excess is so much fun. Beer is so much a part of sport that the NCAA actively promotes drinking.

In the year 2003, beer companies spent more than $50 million to advertise on NCAA games on TV. Bud Light alone spent over $11 million. So, if you watch a televised NCAA event, you are likely to hear about the wonders of beer.

If you go to a game, there will be beer – either inside the stadium or at the ubiquitous tailgate parties. After the game, there is beer everywhere at every bar and every fraternity house. It does not matter how young you are. You’ve been exposed to the NCAA-sanctioned beer ads since you were six.

What the NCAA doesn’t tell you is what local writer Washington Irving observed in 1820: “They who drink beer will think beer.”

So it was that when two midwestern football powerhouses collided last weekend, the student body began to drink on Friday and the drinking continued all day Saturday. What we experience on Slope Day only once a year is a weekly phenomenon at this storied midwest campus. It is simple – it’s gameday and it’s time to drink to excess.

There are, I guess, some of us who will sheepishly acknowledge a good day of drinking can turn bad very quickly. If, as in our case, the heavily-favored home team suffers a humiliating defeat, fights seem to break out and people get hurt.

Somehow, the bad stuff never makes it into the NCAA-Budweiser ads.

After the home team’s loss and the obligatory gameday parties, a female student awoke the next day in the campus hospital. She had been unconscious for many hours and was the victim of a vicious beating.

Three fraternity boys had assaulted her in the “privacy” of their fraternity house. They tied her up. When she would not give in to them, they beat her mercilessly. She wound up with a broken leg, a bruised lung, a cracked rib and over 200 stitches.

Boys apparently will be boys. The frat boys will not be prosecuted. The girl in question doesn’t want to talk about what happened. She won’t even tell her friends. The last thing she wants is to become a poster girl for some feminist coalition.

She doesn’t want people to murmur in the halls. She doesn’t want anyone to point at her and whisper as she walks to class. She just wants to pretend everything is exactly as it was on Friday before the frat boys started their weekend binge.

She won’t cooperate with the police and she will never go to court or give testimony. She does not want ever to have to relive the experience.

The boys will be free to drink all the beer they want this weekend when another rival comes to town. Maybe their next victim will decide to testify against them and get them the prison sentences they deserve.

Beer drinking is so funny. In Henry VI, Part 2, Cade says he “will make it a felony to drink small beer.” Sometimes, it just isn’t funny. Like when you’re a girl on the wrong end of a real felony. But does Bud Light get it? Does the NCAA get it?

Last month, the NCAA executive committee met in Indianapolis to address the issue. Most of their time was spent on mascots. They ruled Florida State should no longer call themselves the Seminoles.

Then the NCAA took up the beer issue. Their solution was to require their beer advertisers to use a tag line like “Drink responsibly.”

That should cheer up the girl in the hospital.

It may have been game day, but sexual assault is not a game. There are no rematches, overturned calls or repeat downs. Nobody is a winner and the loser doesn’t get another chance. In this arena, the victims lucky enough to be alive often spend their lifetimes wishing they were not.

Tomorrow, the Red opens the season at Schoellkopf against perennial rival Bucknell. The beer parties will assuredly be in full force up and down campus. Let’s just hope we can all remember where the game ends and reality begins.

Kyle Sheahen is a Sun Senior Editor. The Ultimate Trip appears every other Friday this semester.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen